Shhhhh . . . don’t mention drinking . . . . it just killed him that’s all –

May 1, 2007 | By | 11 Replies More

We of “Cardinal Nation” here in St. Louis suffered the loss of relief pitcher Josh Hancock this last weekend. In case you haven’t heard, he was killed when he crashed his SUV full-speed into the back of a tow-truck on the highway. The tow truck was stopped, lights blazing in the dark, assisting a disabled motorist in the left lane. Only a few nights earlier, Mr. Hancock had crashed his car, walking away from that late-night accident unharmed but reporting to the ballpark late the next day due to having overslept.

Hmmmm. Does anyone else see something fishy going on here? Single 29-yr.-old athlete crashing his car late at night . . . . twice in one week.

We in Cardinal Nation are also being cautioned against jumping to any conclusions, even though several witnesses reported seeing the deceased drinking shortly before the accident, including one person who said that he couldn’t put sentences together and a bartender who offered to call him a cab, but he refused to accept that offer. We are being chastised for even mentioning that perhaps this was something more dastardly than a tragic accident.

While I understand that nothing about the circumstances of the accident can change the fact that this is a horrific loss for the team and for Hancock’s family and friends, I can’t imagine that anyone will be remotely surprised when the autopsy results show his blood alcohol content to far exceed the legal limit.

Less than two years ago, someone very close to me was in an eerily similar accident. He was speeding down the highway late at night and rammed into the back of a car stopped because of another accident. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. He suffered cuts and bruises, some seriously wounded pride, a vicious hangover, the aggravation of a totalled vehicle and not a small amount of public humiliation, as he is also a fairly well-known person in our fair city. As he should have, because what he did was insanely stupid. I know all too well what he risked. I know who would have been most harmed by his actions had we not quickly taken my children out of town so they wouldn’t witness any aspect of the media circus. He, being the father of said children, risked our family in ways for which I still probably haven’t completely forgiven him. But he worked hard to turn himself around, and for that I give him full credit. He made a serious error in judgment, and thankfully he learned from his mistake.

Sadly, Josh Hancock won’t have that chance. His young life vanished in one incredibly stupid move. Take the cab, Josh!!! For God’s sake, why didn’t you take the cab???

Because he was impaired. He drank too much to think clearly. (Nope, not starting a rumor, just stating what we all know is going to be proven to be true). But he was a Cardinal, so he got served. He was a Cardinal, so no one said, NO, Josh, you may not drive. Give us your keys, Josh. Dammit, I don’t care if you think you can drive, you can’t even focus your eyes. We’ll take care of your car. No, Mr. Hancock, I’m sorry, we can’t let you leave in your condition unless we see you get in someone else’s car. We served you this alcohol, but we cannot let you drive now that you’ve consumed it.

I’m all about personal responsibility, folks, but c’mon. When are we going to take care of each other when it really matters? How did all these friends and acquaintances and employees of Mike Shannon’s, where he was partying, see him drunk, know he was drunk, and STILL let him get in a car by himself and drive away? Was not one single person there sober enough to say – STOP?

As for all of those so quick to jump to his defense and insist we not besmirch his memory with this talk of drunk driving, I ask you this. Do you really think Josh would mind if we used him as an example? Don’t you bet, if given his druthers, he’d choose to be stopped and stripped of his keys instead of winding up dead? Don’t you think he’d say, “You damned well better use me as example – I know now how stupid it was, and I sure as hell don’t want this to ever happen to anyone else. Hold me up as the ugly picture of what happens when decent people make really lousy choices, and do everything in your power not to let this happen to anyone else’s son or daughter. I’m so, so sorry.”

Let’s pay attention this time.

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Current Events, Friendships/relationships

About the Author ()

I am a writer and communication professional in St. Louis, Missouri, a crafter of jewelry, a disorganized optimist and most importantly, the adoptive mom of two China-born daughters.

Comments (11)

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  1. Ben says:

    "a bartender who offered to call him a cab"

    This is common, and will probably clear the bartender of any fault. As mentioned, if the bartender thought the Card really needed the cab, he damn well knows that a drunk person rarely admits being unable to do something as easy as "staying between the lines'. As somebody who is very close to alcoholics (maybe even sitting in the same chair), I would bet that he probably drove home in similar condition a hundred times before. Some people, including one of my friends are "able to drive fine while buzzed", until of course they need to swerve. I know that I will be (partially) at fault for not stepping in if my "talented" friend dies or maims himself or another person.

  2. Erika Price says:

    Ben: If I understand correctly, you mean to say that this doesn't strike you as an uncommon circumstance, and that countless drunks drive home, not hindered by their friends or a bartender, countless times. I don't think that detracts from the reality that all of those friend, all of those bartenders who gave up or looked the other way should have taken a more resolute stance against drunk driving. I know how it happens- nobody wants to seem domineering or uptight, we don't want to have to take responsibility for our friends, and hey, they have made it back safely all those other times, right? But that exact moderate attitude makes it acceptable to drive drunk (or "tipsy" or "buzzed" or whatever) in all circumstances, including those ones that lead to death.

    Of course, personal responsibility needs to play a role. Sure, someone knackered out of their mind can't judge whether they can judge or not, but that very same person could have made the decision to give a friend their keys or simply not drink as much a few hours before. If only Mr. Hancock had formed a plan to accompany his desire to get hammered, by having someone else drive him, or commit to calling a cab, or anything other than driving himself, really. But he didn't. And he does deserve culpability for that.

  3. Mindy Carney says:

    Not only does he deserve culpability, but the fact is he could easily have taken other lives with his own. It's easy to say that if someone makes poor choices, oh well, they deserve the consequences of their actions. But the innocent bystanders don't. And if the people standing around smirking at a drunk getting in a car, especially if they know the person, would simply think two steps ahead and take a glance at the potential consequences, maybe the act of taking someone's keys would be views more as heroic than domineering or uptight or bitchy – or whatever we don't want to be called.

  4. Ben says:

    You are right Mindy, and I have discussed this with my friend numerous times. He is okay with the risk, and drives drunk at least 3 nights a week. At this point there is not much I can do short of calling the police next time he goes drinking, unless you have a suggestion I have not considered…

    When I say the bartender was not at "fault", I meant in the legal sense. In fact, I presume his heart is heavier now, and he will be more proactive about saving his customers lives by taking keys away.

  5. Mindy Carney says:

    I hope so, Ben. As for your friend, how unbelievably arrogant that "he is okay with the risk." I imagine the family of the person he plows over won't be as OK with it as he is. That is so sad. If I were you, yes, I sould call the police next time you know he's out drinking. He desperately needs to get caught BEFORE he hurts someone. He may invincible, but the rest of us out there on the road are not.

  6. Ben says:

    If it's any consolation, he got a DUI last weekend. I guess the odds catch up with you, even if you are superman.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Imagine if someone were to seriously investigate all of the professional athletes of the U.S. and to publish their spare-no-details biographies without mentioning their true names or professions. You’d see a long list of young men documenting all of the sins of any other group young men, maybe even more sins since they have more money to get into more trouble. If a person scanned this list without realizing the athletic accomplishments of the men, they’d likely say, “Sheesh, what’s America coming to?”

    If we were presented with that long list, we would note the many guys who drink too much, dabble with drugs, gleefully engage in conspicuous consumption, cheat on their spouses and turn their backs on their poorer friends of old.

    Professional athletes are people who are well-protected by a compliant law-enforcement system and a media racket that uses these guys to sell lots and lots (and lots) of advertising. In their sterilized form, these guys are a precious commodity. See this post for the lopsided nature of sports coverage—in many local newspapers and newscasts, sports gets as much (or more) coverage than all “serious” news combined. Why so much fuss over these guys? The proximate explanation is that huge amounts of money are at stake. Huge amounts of money and time. Money and time that often should be spent attending to real-life pressing matters.

    With all of that PR supporting their sanitized and glamorized images, is it surprising that we have such an unrealistic image of pro athletes? They are repeatedly given a free ride. They are glamorized by the press as part of an unspoken quid pro quo. When they show up for a staged photo-op at the children’s hospital cancer ward, they are followed by a dozen beaming people holding television cameras and newspaper cameras. On those occasions when they stop to help someone with a flat tire, they are compared to Mother Teresa. When we see a pro athlete in a restaurant or the airport, we get all giddy. Whenever a pro athlete genuinely lives a life of constant selfless altruism (as was the case of Kurt Warner), the media falls all over itself trying to generate new accolades for him.

    We want our athletes to be little gods, playing one of God’s favorite pastimes. We want to adore them. We dream that we could be one of them, or at least that our kids will someday join their ranks. How else to explain that soooo many parents emphasize a “sport” called t-ball for their six-year olds, a game that involves almost no exercise at all?

    The public is thus part of this conspiracy of make-believe. We can’t bear the thought that someone someday might break the spell and remind us that all of these guys are fallible human beings. We don’t like to think the truth: that many pro athletes are people you’d never want your daughters to date. Some of them are people you wouldn’t ever want in your house.

    But those athletes “are” the people they are carefully orchestrated to be. They smack balls (or throw balls through hoops), they run fast, they knock each other over. We clap and scream our approval. We hand over $6 for a beer. But never tell a golfing fan “This is an awful lot of attention for a guy whose talent is merely tapping a little ball in a hole.” Don’t break the spell. Don’t wake the people up from their cozy little dreams that what those athletes are doing on the field matters in a big way.

    The ultimate explanation for this protection racket is that pro athletes are the centerpieces for social bonding and status seeking by the fans. How many times have you heard a fan bragging that he or she got “good seats for the big game”? How many times have you heard jubilant fans exclaiming “we won!,” as though the fans accomplished anything at all? For more on ultimate explanations, see Jason Rayl’s post, "Super Bull."

    The bottom line is that our corporate sponsors can’t “afford” for our sports celebrities to look bad. It’s literally too expensive. The fans don’t like it because it jolts them back into the real world. They’d rather remain in that land of snooze where it’s the most important thing in the world that a ball lands fair rather than foul.

    Well, it’s too bad that Josh Hancock was driving “foul” a few nights ago rather than “fair.” That mistake cost him his life. Now we shall see whether the fans learn anything from this incident, or whether they quickly return to their corporate-sponsored dreamland.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    I see that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is busy milking the death of Josh Hancock. Today's front page headline of the news section begins with this quote: "Every day was a good day for him." Every day? Even when he was hung over? Even the day he recklessly drove himself to death?

    For the Post, though, it's time to put a happy spin on the whole sad episode. The first sentence of the article: "It didn't matter Thursday [in Tupelo Mississippi] how Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock died tragically Sunday morning or the prospective reasons why."

    Let's move ne, now! Nothing to see here . . .  Time to play ball!

  9. Mindy Carney says:

    Blood alcohol level 1.57, pot in the car and he was on his cell phone to a "female acquaintance" when he hit the truck going 68 mph in a 55 mph zone.

    Now can we talk about drinking and driving?

  10. Ben says:

    That alcohol number looks a little weird. Did you mean .157

    Anyway, I got drunk one night, and woke up in the hospital with a .29 BAC.

    Was drinking straight from the bottle, seeing if I could keep up with my buddy. I think I actually won, until the hospital bill arrived.

    I guess what happened was that I didn't realize how much alcohol was already in my stomach, while I was still taking gulps from the bottle. Then it became easy to drink, and tasted like water. The last thing I remember was walking around having a great time, but being amazed how drunk I was. I even remember telling somebody, "I can't believe how drunk I am, I've never been this drunk, hahahaha". Luckily somebody found me in a pool of vomit with eyes glazed back and was brave enough to dial 911. They say that I was trying to fight the ambulance guys who and was spitting on them and had to be restrained. Anyway, I don't think it was the pot that got the pitcher killed, it was that last pitcher of beer. But that's just little old me.

  11. mindy carney says:

    yes, of course, I meant .157. My bad.

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